Tag Archives: Sam Rockwell

Countdown: Get to Know Sam Rockwell

Between small roles in giant films (Iron Man 2, The Green Mile, Charlie’s Angels) and leading roles in quirky indies that disappear instantaneously, Sam Rockwell has produced some of the best overlooked performances in modern film. Charismatic and versatile, as comfortable in the skin of the sweetheart, weasel, villain or nutjob, Rockwell has a unique presence that adds flavor to every project. But too few people are familiar with him and his work. Here’s your chance to get to know Sam Rockwell.

 

The Way Way Back (2013)

Rockwell commands attention in a Bill Murray-esque role as the off-kilter mentor to a struggling adolescent working at a waterpark for the summer. Though the entire ensemble impresses, Rockwell steals the film with a charming characterization that’s as worldly wise as it is juvenile.

 

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Offering a brilliantly unhinged performance that anchors an equally unhinged film, Rockwell’s peculiar talents are on full display in Martin McDonagh’s good hearted bloodbath. With a supporting cast that includes Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits, the film should sell itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bX8AKFY_-I

 

Moon (2009)

This near-one-man-show offers Rockwell the room to prove himself, and he does so with aplomb. Duncan Jones’s SciFi feature manages to openly homage many of the greats while still offering a singular, unique vision. But it’s Rockwell who astonishes with a turn that dives deep and leaves an impression.

 

Choke (2008)

Based on a Chuck Palahniuk novel, Choke follows Victor – a sex-addicted con artist with mommy issues – through some unexpected life turns. Both concept and character are unusual –just the kind of project where Rockwell shines. Hip, damaged, funny, desperate, incredibly flawed yet redeemable, Victor would prove a tough nut to crack for many actors. Not Rockwell.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WbbzE2qc9k

 

Snow Angels (2007)

David Gordon Green’s family drama offers one of Rockwell’s most nuanced and heartbreaking dramatic turns. So often the glib cat or loose cannon, Rockwell proves here that an intensely personal role is just as comfortable a fit. As the wounded, estranged father involved in a small town tragedy, he hits all the right notes and leaves you breathless.

 

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2007)

George Clooney had the good sense to offer Rockwell his first major lead, and he absolutely nails this fictionalized (or is it?!) biopic of Chuck Barris, part time Gong Show host, part time assassin. Working with a gift of a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, Rockwell easily inhabits both the peculiarity of the TV personality and the insanity of the government agent fantasy. Whatever the film’s flaws, Rockwell keeps you glued to the craziness.

 

Sam Rockwell..get to know him!

When the Going Gets Weird, These Guys Get Going…

Sure, you probably caught Woody Harrelson and his shaggy blond wig in Catching Fire, the number one film in the country today (and for the foreseeable future). But this weekend,Woody sneaks back into theaters as the Appalachian meth dealer/bare knuckle boxing organizer Harlan DeGroat in Out of the Furnace. Though you might not notice it at first blush, the two characters have something in common. They’re weirdos. Is that intentional, or is it difficult for Harrelson to do anything else? He’s a tremendous character actor, a welcome sight in any film, but let’s be honest. The dude’s always and forever playing weirdos.

Well, we love that about him, and today we wish to celebrate all those reliable oddballs, freaks and weird dudes. A tip of the hat to Harrelson and his effortlessly peculiar brethren: cinema’s ten best weirdos.

10. Udo Kier

Who’s Udo Kier, you may be asking? We’re sorry for your loss, because you have apparently missed out on the smorgasbord of oddballs that have made up this man’s nearly 50 year career. Between his overly large eyes, wet lips and impenetrable accent, he brings a pervy air to every role, which he’s used to great effect in hundreds of performances.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvpz88YYego

9. Michael Shannon

Shannon’s size, his quietly observant style, his delayed nasal speaking, his judging eyes all give him a creepy quality perfect for weirdo roles. Luckily for everyone, he’s deeply talented, imbuing each of his unique characters with the fragile humanity that spawned the freaky behavior in the first place.

8. Sam Rockwell

Rockwell’s a huge talent, and with his trademark quirky charm he’s basically invented the niche of oddball leading man. There’s a childlike quality to his performances, and a laid back but somewhat scornful humor that reminds us at times of Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray. He brings a magnetic but quirky humanity to every role – drama or comedy, lead or supporting.

7. Tom Waits

That gravely, smoker’s voice, the Eraserhead-esque hairstyle, a face and body that appear to be all angles – Waits cuts an unusual onscreen image. He’s put that to fine use over the years in roles that call for something a little unusual.

6. Mickey Rourke

Back in the day, Rourke brought a uniquely smoldering charisma to roles. He was never a cookie cutter leading man, always a bit off. His current hulking appearance and years of bad decisions have thrust him into the niche of the lumbering nutjob, but you know what? He handles it with aplomb.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FokjNH7Gw8

5. Dennis Hopper

Dude! It may have been Hopper’s own bad wiring that helped him bring a little mania (sometimes a lot) to scores of roles: the wacked out hippie in Easy Riders, the wacked out zealot in Apocalypse Now, the obsessive investigator in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the Southern madman in Paris Trout, the drunken father in Hoosiers. But he owns it in among the all time great freakshow performances, Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.

4. Willem Dafoe

Dafoe brings a malevolent comic ability to roles – including his supporting turn opposite Harrelson in Out of the Furnace. His performances tend toward fearless, and he contorts his own physical presence to bring out the demonic or the strangely comical – or both – in each role.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvE-_utxEzc

3. Christopher Walken

The great. Whether he’s requesting cowbell on SNL, adding a peculiar charm to a comedy, or staring down a man about to die in a drama, Walken’s staccato delivery, blank stare and musical timing ensure that every line he delivers feels  profoundly, often unsettlingly weird.

2. Crispin Glover

The thing about Crispin Glover (McFly!) is that you get the feeling this is just how he is. He’s drawn to the characters that most closely resemble his own unique personality. I’m not saying he eats cockroaches, but a romantic lead is probably not in his future, on camera or otherwise.

 

1. Nic Cage

Cage wins this contest because he appears to have trouble not being a weirdo. Channeling his inner normal guy seems to sometimes be too great a task for the actor. Those ridiculous wigs only hamper any effort to mask his natural freakishness, but we say don’t hide it, Nic! Let that freak flag fly.

For Your Queue: Sketchy Parenting with Varying Results

 

Usually we take this opportunity to point you in the direction of a great new release, then pair that with an older film with similarities. But today is so stocked with great new releases, we’ve chosen to just recommend a couple of those. (Check out our Halloween Countdown for another new release recommendation: The Conjuring.) Aside from a theme of sketchy parenting, these two films could not have less in common. Still, both are well worth your time.

The Way, Way Back was one of the summer’s most enjoyable flicks – a nostalgic but smart look at the painful and awkward transitions of adolescence. Sam Rockwell owns the film as Bill Murray-esque mentor to self-conscious teen Duncan (a very believable Liam James), a boy stuck on a summer vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her tool boyfriend (Steve Carell, playing marvelously against type). Fresh, funny and surprisingly honest, it’s that rare coming of age tale that hits on all cylinders.

Only God Forgives, on the other hand, is Nicolas Winding Refn’s dreamlike trip through hell itself. Set in Bangkok, the tale that unspools is a slow-moving nightmare in red, a visual spectacle of family dysfunction and vengeance of the most vulgar and unseemly sort. Ryan Gosling smolders, Kristin Scott Thomas stuns, and Visaya Pansringarm sings karaoke, but they all have a lot of blood on their hands. You may not enjoy it, but you will be amazed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tcl2hnhze3E

There’s Heart in the Wizz

 

by George Wolf

 

When I was young, my brother and I called it “the way back,” that place at the rear of an old station wagon just big enough for a kid to take refuge.

Nat Faxon and Jim Rash call that same area, and their new film, The Way, Way Back, a poignant and often very funny look at the bittersweet awkwardness of adolescence.

Faxon and Rash actually wrote the script years ago, but couldn’t get it sold. Then they won an Oscar in 2011 for co-writing The Descendants, and decided to spend their new Hollywood capital by resurrecting the old project and directing it themselves.

The centerpiece is 14 year old Duncan (Liam James), who is truly underjoyed at having to spend summer vacation with his mom Pam (Toni Collette), her tool boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter.

Things start to look up when Duncan stumbles into a job at Water Wizz, the local water park (Water Wizz!). Falling under the tutelage of Owen, the Wizz manager (Sam Rockwell) Duncan gets a fresh outlook, as well as confidence enough to chat up cutie Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb).

Faxon and Rash establish themselves as a team with a bright future. Though less assured than The Descendants (the lack of director Alexander Payne might have something to do with that), The Way, Way Back is full of crisp dialogue, well formed characters and situations that, for the most part, ring true.

The ensemble cast (which also includes Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, Faxon and Rash) is splendid, with Carell impressively playing against type, and the young James crafting Duncan as the wince-inducing personification of teenage nerdery.

As good as everyone is, this is Rockwell’s show to steal, and he’s hilariously guilty. A freewheeling mix of Bill Murray and Hawkeye Pierce, Owen unleashes a barrage of one liners and real world philosophy. As Duncan becomes more comfortable with his water fun family, a nice dichotomy is created between the d-bag father figure Trent smugly thinks he is, and the supercool one Owen easily becomes.

Some moments are a bit forced, but on the whole, this is the rare coming of age story that feels fresh. With a big heart that both adults and teens should find relatable, The Way, Way Back is the surprise gem of the summer.

 

Verdict-3-5-Stars